If you’re going to bet on one horse race in 2021 then it’s more than likely going to be the Grand National. It’s the greatest steeplechase in the world after all but it’s a handicap with 30 jumps to negotiate and 4m 2f and 74 yards to cover so anything can happen. If the handicapper’s got it spot on then we should be in for a treat with 40 runners and riders in with a chance of creating their own slice of history.
The deadline for entries to the 2021 Grand National closed on February 2 and the handicapper soon got to work assessing the field. Martin Greenwood released his evaluations two weeks later and ruffled the feathers of Tiger Roll’s connections by dishing out a rating of 166 for the dual Grand National winner. The Tiger was withdrawn at the first stage of scratchings because of the “unfair weight burden” but he later went on to demolish his Cross Country Chase rivals at the Cheltenham Festival.
Once the Grand National weights are decided, that’s it, there’s no going back. Quite simply, a horse’s handicap for the big race is unaffected by any runs in the intervening period before going to post. A number of entries have been in action since the assessment so future ratings changes have already been signposted by the handicapper.
Here, Paddy Power News takes a deep dive into the data to highlight some horses that are ahead of the handicapper.
Cloth Cap +14lbs
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) handicapper increased Cloth Cap’s rating from 148 to 162 as a result of the nine-year-old’s impressive victory in the Premier Chase at Kelso in early March.
Cloth Cap (10st 5lb) is a full stone ahead of the handicapper thanks to the new mark – and the favourite in Paddy Power’s non-runner money back market appears to tick plenty of boxes. Cloth Cap has won over a distance of 3m or more twice in his career including last November’s Trophy Chase at Newbury, is within the eight to 11 age bracket and heads to Aintree off that recent spin north of the border.
Connections also have a terrific record in the Grand National. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill scored in 2010 when Tony McCoy broke his duck on Don’t Push It, while owner Trevor Hemmings has three wins with Hedgehunter in 2005, Ballabriggs in 2011 and Many Clouds in 2015.
It’s been an excellent season for Cloth Cap which started back in October when finishing third behind Frodon in a Class 2 handicap at Cheltenham. Winning the Grand National would make it a hat-trick after scoring at Newbury and Kelso.
Lord Du Mesnil +5lbs
Also guaranteed a run in the Grand National barring any late hiccups, Lord Du Mesnil (10st 6lb) was handed a five-pound rise to 154 off the back of February’s Grand National Trial victory at Haydock. Trained by Richard Hobson, who has never won the race, the eight-year-old would have to carry 10st 11lb if the fresh mark were applied.
The Haydock victory was Lord Du Mesnil’s first win of the season at the fourth attempt. He had a spin over hurdles before tackling the Grand National fences in December’s Grand Sefton Handicap Chase when finishing ninth of 18 runners. It was a similar outcome in the following month’s Welsh Grand National – won by Secret Reprieve – before scoring over 3m 4½f.
Bristol De Mai +2lbs
With 11 wins and 11 seconds in 35 runs under rules, it’s no surprise to see Bristol De Mai (11st 10lb) heading the weights. A five-time Grade 1 winner and three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup runner – including a third place in 2019 – the 10-year-old touched a mark of 173 in the past.
The grey kicked off the 2020/21 season with a win in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock in November when rated 169. February’s Cotswold Chase at Sandown was next on the agenda and a 9½l defeat to Native River earned a two-pound uptick from the handicapper – just days after entries closed for the Grand National.
The scale of the challenge facing Bristol De Mai is clear – no horse has won carrying top weight since the legendary Red Rum in 1974. Many Clouds came closest in 2015 when winning with 11st 9lb on his back.
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change
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